Advice for photography students

I posed this question to some prominent industry professionals. Here are some of the answers. I will continue to add more as they come in.  Please join the discussion.

Question: how do I teach my photography students

how to make a living in this economy?

Marla Gamze-Pendergrast said:

Encourage them to be versatile in every aspect of the business. They should learn about how to run a business, work a camera, make sales calls, network and market as well as handle the production end. They could then be well-versed to enter the job market as a jack of all trades or fill a niche like retouching/ Photoshoping. Remind them that it is a creative industry and that their preconceived ideas of what is beautiful or balanced may not match those of their customers. In other words, remove their ego. However, they should remain flexible and take even initial small jobs or part-time positions as stepping stones or to build their portfolio. It’s an invigorating, fulfilling industry and worth the effort.

Robb Scharetg said:


Honestly . . . I’d encourage them to be VERY humble starting out. To pay their dues: assisting, schlepping, working in a studio, whatever it takes. The reality is that there are WAY too many people out there trying to get the still existing work (that isn’t going to be produced using RM or RF stock, or via Flickr), to understand that in most cases it takes at MINIMUM a decade to get established and to be able to earn a ‘living wage’, that the ever present ‘digi-cam’ and PS have completely devalued photography in the eyes of many, that ‘good enough’ now usually ‘is’ for many clients, and that if they do NOT have an incredible passion/drive/need to shoot and create images they’d better find something else to do now because it ‘ain’t gonna’ get better’ anytime soon. That’s the truth.

Oh yeah, better learn how to shoot/edit/light and do sound for video. And to expect to be asked to do so for little/no additional fees (just because you’re asked to do so does not mean you have to agree to it) because ‘everyone else is doing it’.

I’ve guest lectured in quite a few ‘Senior level classes’ at a few well known art schools. And pretty much without exception I’d estimate that 99% of those soon to be ‘photographers’ graduating don’t have a chance in hell of making it. Sorry, but it’s true. They may be competent photographers (although given the amount of PS I’ve seen in their books it’s hard to tell) but they’re pretty much lost when it comes to the business of photography.

Want to teach them? Tell them: NO to ‘all rights granted’, NO to RF, NO to shooting ‘for exposure’, and YES to joining ASMP/APA/EP and GETTING INVOLVED.

And Maria is SO right- ‘remove their egos. That’s a start.

Best of luck with that.

Dave Busch said:

And tell them to be patient.
The demand for images is greater than ever.
It just happened that at this time in history, the demand went way high when money went way down. It is no mystery that the need for quality went out the window. The end users of images do not have the money to spend yet the market place has demanded they get images.
The result of this uneven demand vs. money supply ratio simply is not covered by ordinary Economics 101 supply and demand curves.
They must be patient because business runs in (ever shorter) cycles.
The money will catch up, and the need for quality will become the most important factor for companies wanting to separate themselves from the pack.
Position them for a longer than average waiting period. Tell them to shoot as much as they can, develop their style, their eye, and to develop a specialty along with being a good generalist. Their time will come, if they can hang in long enough.

Susie Speck Mayor said:

Learn about marketing and expect to spend more time marketing yourself than shooting photographs. In order to have a successful business you must be first a businessman and then an artist.


~ by Stephen Sheffield on March 11, 2010.

One Response to “Advice for photography students”

  1. thank you for this!


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